WELCH'S LAST-SECOND SHOT FINISHES LARGE DCC COMEBACK AND PROPELS CARDINALS TO STATE COLLEGE
DUBOIS CENTRAL CATHOLIC 51, KENNEDY CATHOLIC 50
PIAA Class A Boys' Semifinals at Clarion University March 20, 2007
By Chris Rossetti
CLARION – Andrew Welch’s 3-foot leaning backwards jumper with 2.something seconds left
lifted Dubois Central Catholic to a 51-50 win over Kennedy Catholic in the PIAA Class A semifinals Tuesday night
The Cardinals (27-3), the fourth-place team out of District 9, will play Reading Central
Catholic, the D3 champion, at 2 p.m. Friday at the
“I’m just thinking I’ve got to make this shot,” Welch said. “It was just like I have done it a 100 times, because that is what we’ve been practicing so hard. We were right in the moment. I knew I was going to make it, and I just laid it in. It was the most unbelievable feeling in my life. I have never felt like that. Everyone was just running, and the place was going crazy. It was the greatest thing I have ever done, I think.”
Welch’s heroics won’t have been possible without a great pass from junior guard Dom Varacallo. Varacallo seemed trapped in no-mans land between the 3-point arc and the hoop on the far, right side of the court facing away from the open doors with three Kennedy Catholic defenders surrounding him. But the 5-9 junior somehow found Welch with a pass that led to the winning shot.
“I was looking to the shot the whole time,” Varacallo said. “But I trusted my teammates and saw (Welch) out of the corner of my eye. He can jump. I figured anywhere in the area he would catch the ball and but it in the basket. It was unbelievable. I couldn’t dream anything better than this.”
The final basket capped an incredible comeback by DCC, which trailed District 10 champion Kennedy Catholic (22-6) by 18 points with 13:07 left.
The Cardinals needed just 3:46 to climb completely out of that hole going on a 19-0 run to take a 36-35 lead with nine minutes left.
“Deep down you think we have a huge mountain to climb,” DCC head coach Mike Nesbit said. “Realistically, can we do it to a team like Kennedy? I would bet you Kennedy has never given up an 18-point lead in the second half in the last 25 years. It looked pretty bleak. For us to comeback, our kids just never quit.”
DCC’s pressure defense was the key to the run, as the Cardinals forced seven turnovers during the spurt leading to 13 of the 19 points.
“It became quite apparent that they didn’t seem to like that pressure,” Nesbit said. “We talked about whether we should come out and pressure their guards. All the films we had on them and everything we had seen, no one had tried to pressure them. It was like they give too much respect to their guards. It was apparent against Clairton (in the quarterfinals) that we could do that, and it was apparent tonight that we could do that. I don’t know if we could have done it for a full game like we did but I think we wore them down.”
DCC’s guards contributed mightily to the run scoring all 19 points. Dom Varacallo had the final eight of the spurt including the go-ahead lay-up while hitting back-to-back 3-pointers on his way to a team-high 17 points. Cody Wilson added seven points during the stretch, while Christian Spilman chipped in with four.
“I think Christian and Dom outplayed their guards,” Nesbit said. “They totally out played them. They were phenomenal tonight.”
Even though Kennedy Catholic took a 37-36 lead on an offensive rebound and putback by Blair
Rozenblad, its 6-3 senior who is heading to
“Our feeling was if we could pull within 10 to start the fourth, we are OK,” Nesbit said. “We actually took the lead in the third. It was the best third quarter of basketball as far as high school kids coming back that I have ever seen. I bet you, you guys probably haven’t seen anything like that.”
The game then became a see-saw affair in the fourth quarter with the lead changing hands seven times while also being tied twice.
Kennedy’ appeared to gain the upper hand when Rozenbald hit two free throws with 1:55 to play to give the Eagles a 48-47 lead and Kyle Randall followed with two charity shots at the 1:04 mark making it 50-47.
But after Randall’s free throws, DCC called time-out with 53 seconds left, and Varacallo hit a cutting Welch with a backdoor lay-up at 44 seconds to cut the lead to 50-49.
“We told them we don’t need a three,” Nesbit said. “We told them to get what they could get. We got the two.”
The Cardinals then fouled sophomore Marsell Holden, Kennedy’s leading scorer at 15.4 ppg, with 27 seconds left. Kennedy was in the double bonus, so Holden got two free throws. He missed them both, and DCC’s Chris Wulderk, a 6-3 senior, came up with the defensive rebound over Rozenbald, who finished with 14 boards including six on the offensive end, and 6-foot-4 Dallas Hartman, who had five rebounds including three offense.
“Is there a bigger rebound right there?” Nesbit asked. “We got the rebounds when it counted. I know we were outrebounded (30-15), but we got them when they mattered at the end. That was the most important thing.”
DCC then called time-out with 16.7 seconds left and tried the run the same backdoor play to Welch, but it was taken away leading Varacallo all the way to the right-side baseline.
“We basically ran the same play as we ran the possession before when we scored on the pick-and-roll,” Nesbit said. “They took Christian away. Somehow we got the ball inbounds, and we got it on the opposite wing. Dom found Andrew.”
“If you had told me at the end of the night that he had no points, I won’t think we would have won,” Nesbit said. “He had a tall order. They did a great job of taking away our interior game. Our guards did a great job tonight. You can’t say enough about them.”
Rozenblad led Kennedy with 24 points and 14 rebounds, while Hartman added seven points.
NOTES – This is DCC’s first-ever trip to the PIAA championship game. The Cardinals
advanced to the PIAA semifinals in 1976 before losing to Saint Johns from the WPIAL … It is the second
consecutive season District 9 has put a team into the Class A boys’ championship.
DUBOIS CENTRAL CATHOLIC 51, KENNEDY CATHOLIC 50
Score by Quarters
Kennedy Catholic 13 10 14 13 – 50
DuBois Cent. Cath. 8 9 19 15 – 51
Kennedy Catholic – 50
Patrick Mastrian 2 0-0 5, Marsell Holden 2 0-2 5, Philip Kaikis 1 0-0 3, Kyle Randall 2 2-2
6, Chris Pacsi 0 0-0 0, Mike Ponzurick 0 0-0 0,
DuBois Central Catholic – 51
Christian Spilman 4 0-0 9, Michael Hassan 0 1-2 1, Dom Varacallo 7 0-0 17, Eric Johnson 3 0-1 6, Chris Wulderk 0 0-0 0, Andrew Welch 4 0-0 8, Matt Pentz 0 0-0 0, Cody Wilson 4 2-3 10. Totals 22 3-6 51.